Live Review: Windhand, Pilgrim and Magic Circle in Brooklyn, 03.01.12

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Wrong-o on that one. Public Assembly was packed from the time I walked in (following a quick sojourn at the Academy Records Annex down the block) and only got more so as the night wore on. I was there well in time to catch the start of Magic Circle‘s set, and recalled the band’s name from the fact that they’ll be sharing the stage with Saint Vitus, Church of Misery and Kings Destroy at Chaos in Tejas in Austin, TX, come June. It was something of a surprise then when frontman Brendan Radigan, also of Boston hardcore outfit The Rival Mob (also Mind Eraser), announced that it was their first show.

They were pretty doomed out, and I marked that as a win. Radigan‘s stage moves, full of twisting arms, orchestra-conductor hands, rolled-back eyes and sundry torso contortions, added to the eerie feel of the double-guitars, and they were tighter than one might expect for not having played live before. If they’d had a CD for sale, I would’ve bought it, but the set had to suffice on its own, and it managed to do just that. There seemed to be a pretty decent age differential among band members, but whichever side of the stage you looked at, the band functioned well, had a couple choice song titles and some noteworthy banter through the mic. A bit of old-school metal chugging toward the end endeared them to denim/leather and flannel alike.

I’d had my customary three beers by the time they were finished, downing the last of the last as I stood along the back wall and watched them wrap the set, but being there by myself and it being more crowded than I initially thought meant that pretty much went out the window. Call it “extenuating circumstances” if you want, but I’d had a fourth before Pilgrim got going; the youngster doomers down from Providence, Rhode Island recently released their Misery Wizard full-length debut on Primordial frontman Alan Averill‘s Poison Tongue (run through Metal Blade), and as the zip file has been on my desktop waiting for review for the last month, they were a bit of a curio.

My initial impression from hearing their recorded stuff was they sounded like The Gates of Slumber sounding like Saint Vitus, and I kind of expected the live show to follow suit, but they were more characteristically individual on stage. They are young, though. Really young. I mean, I know I’m getting older, but even if I saw Pilgrim five years ago and they were the same age they were last night, they’d still look like kids. Now that I write it, I’m not sure who that says more about, but screw it, there it is.

For what it’s worth, their sound reflected their youth, both in that it felt like they were at the beginning stages of a longer developmental process and that they were able to energetically play songs about wizards and sword-fighting without coming off as insincere. Their guitarist/vocalist, who by no coincidence goes by the moniker The Wizard, did indeed channel his inner Karl Simon as we all must from time to time, but his misery felt genuine enough to carry it across, and shirtless bassist Count Elric the Soothsayer and drummer Krolg, Slayer of Men (who played mostly hidden behind the bulk of his kit — doubtless stealth is one of his slaying tactics), did well locking down the slower grooves in the rhythm section. Pilgrim were fun. No complaints.

They were selling their record, both the jewel case and digipak versions, as well as posters and shirts and whatever else. I bought the jewel case — they’re a dying breed and built to last — and, while I was there, grabbed Windhand‘s CD as well, keeping just enough cash left over for one last beer as they were setting up. Public Assembly had already hit the point where it was hard to move, so I situated myself up front and waited for the ethereal Virginian doomers to commence peddling their cultish wares, expecting much fuckedupness to ensue shortly.

Probably true, I should’ve learned my lesson about the accuracy of my expectations the second I walked in the door at the venue, but clearly I hadn’t. Before Windhand even got through their first song, guitarist Asechiah Bogdan (whose name beats Pilgrim‘s members outright, and is probably real) blew out his amp. They played the first song as a four-piece, and did it pretty well, considering, but cut off before the second got going and took what wound up being a long break while dealing with the technical problems. Happens to everybody sooner or later.

Could’ve easily been worse. The house music never came back on, if that tells you anything. Windhand eventually got going again, Bogdan joining fellow guitarist Garrett Morris and bassist Nathan Hilbish for a thoroughly satisfying wave of doomly fuzz that wholly justified both the trip in and the wait for sorting out equipment troubles. Drummer Ryan Wolfe (ex-Facedowninshit, current-The Might Could) was dead on, and vocalist Dorthia Cottrell managed the difficult task of  steering the band back on track quickly and efficiently. At one point — I think it was during “Winter Sun,” the closer from the album and the highlight of their set — she seemed fully locked into the undulations of the riff, shifting forward and back in a way that was both hypnotic and really hard to capture with a camera for someone who, let’s say, has only the most basic awareness of how one works. Just an example.

But if 200 completely unusable shots were the outcome of watching Windhand play, they were more than eclipsed by the force with which they doom. Perhaps it was the realism of technical difficulties, but their perceptible cultish leanings in the recorded material took a backseat at Public Assembly to the sheer weight of the songs themselves which, either as the foursome or with Bogdan plugged in and ready to go, came across undeniably well. I was already intrigued to find out where their next record would take them, but having seen their presence fill out as it has even since their appearance at SHoD, they could easily morph into a wholly distinct outfit of marked potency. The potential is there, is what I’m saying.

Similar things have been said about Natur (who are not to be confused with Stevie Floyd from Dark Castle‘s solo-project of the sane name), but it was getting on midnight and I had work this morning, which, coupled with the band’s locality, was enough for me to justify skipping out. Won’t do much for my Brooklyn cred, but I live in Jersey, so Brooklyn cred was a pipedream anyway — just ask the publicists who don’t return my emails. My thinking was we’ll run into each other sooner or later, and hopefully that’s true as well of Magic Circle, Pilgrim and Windhand, since it seemed to be that each had showed some measure of potential do contribute something unique to the genre — and mostly in different ways — while also happening to kick some ass in the meantime. As I rolled back into my humble river valley at around 1AM and put a pillow over my head to call it a night, my lips couldn’t help but curl in a smile at the payoff of my doomed gluttony.

Extra pics after the jump.

Magic Circle



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